Easter Traditions

Highly experienced Easter Egg hunters.

Highly experienced Easter Egg hunters.

My brother Alberto knows how to celebrate a holiday.

He goes more than a little overboard for Christmas (his ceiling is permanently marked by branch scrapes directly above the spot where every year he decorates an impossibly oversized live tree); every year he is in competition with himself to outdo last Halloween’s display (he will soon need to rent storage space to keep all the decorations and props he obsessively collects every year at the after Halloween sales); and, for Easter. . . well, I doubt any individual homeowner organizes a larger or more intricate Easter Egg hunt.

The satisfied ring leader.

The satisfied ring leader.

We are a large family, I am the youngest of six and I have 13 nieces and nephews, so any holiday get-together is a production. The guest list for Easter Sunday now hovers around 32 depending on who can make it. This has been my brother’s holiday to host for more than 15 years, and the egg hunt in his yard has been part of that tradition the entire time.

Gosia and Victoria, Easter 2003

Gosia and Victoria, Easter 2003

Easter 2003 was the first time I brought a guest to Easter dinner. Gosia was more used to family celebrations with a guest list of about half a dozen, but we didn’t manage to scare her off and two years later she became my wife and permanent part of our family events.

Victoria waiting for the signal to join the egg hunt.

Victoria waiting for the signal to join the egg hunt.

My brother is very serious about the egg hunt and he has developed a number of rules over the years to make the competition fair for all the age groups. The kids are released with their basket in hand in order of age, with the youngest going first. Based on age, there is a certain amount of time each of them needs to wait before joining the hunt — the specifics are arcane and best left to him to arbiter.

Surveying the spoils.

Surveying the spoils.

Initially all the eggs only contained candy and chocolate, but as the kids have grown older the prizes needed to get more interesting. Some eggs have coins in them, and some are “special eggs” that can be redeemed for a chance to answer a question and win money. All the questions are family trivia and the kids are allowed to ask the appropriate family member for the answer. It’s always fun and we all end up learning more about each other.

Katrina listens closely to her uncle's question.

Katrina listens closely to her uncle’s question.

In previous years the big prize “special egg” was the first clue in a long and intricate scavenger hunt that culminated in a large money prize. This year Alberto had something more interesting planned.

Cory finds out what he needs to do to claim his cash prize.

Cory finds out what he needs to do to claim his cash prize.

This year Alberto’s son, Cory, got the big prize egg and found out that he needed to call his step-sister, ask her what she named her pet fish, and then write and perform a song about it. The result was pretty funny and it was a nice reminder to Natalie that even though she couldn’t be there with us on Sunday that we were thinking about her.

Gear Bag. The Boring, Important Stuff: #1 A Car

When there is talk of photography gear usually it revolves around the sexy stuff — the brand new cameras, the fastest glass, some european strobe or light modifier. They’re easy to overlook, but there are plenty of “boring” things that I consider part of my critical gear as a photographer that are not specific to the field but that are either essential for me to work, or at least make my life a little easier.

I plan to keep a running list of these pieces of gear, in no particular order of importance — just in the order that they pop into my mind.

#1: A Car

2011 VW Diesel Wagon

2011 VW Diesel Wagon

I want to start my list with what I would argue is my most important piece of gear aside from the cameras and lenses. A location photographer without a reliable car, just wouldn’t be able to work.

I spend many thousands of miles on the road every year, and over all those hours at the wheel I grow very attached to my car. I took my time through most of last year to look for the perfect replacement for my 2008 Golf.

2008 VW Hatchback

2008 VW Hatchback

The Golf had given me five years of faithful service, but it had two major problems. First was overall size: it was a bit small to comfortably carry all the gear, me, an assistant, and leave room for anyone else. Second was fuel economy: the same thing that made the car fun made it less fun at the gas pump.

Golf engine bay with 2.5L 5-cylinder engine

Golf engine bay with 2.5L 5-cylinder engine

For the US market VW chose to shoehorn in a 2.5L 5-cylinder engine that in Europe they don’t offer on this car. On the Golf I averaged about 22 mpg on normal driving and on long highway trips the best I ever managed was 31 mpg. Trudging through heavy traffic I could expect at best about 18 mpg.

TDI engine bay with 4-cylinder turbo

TDI engine bay with 4-cylinder turbo

I was not specifically looking for another VW, but in some ways the choice felt predetermined. We just don’t have a lot of choices in the US for station wagons. The choices for diesel powered anything that isn’t a truck? Well, they’re even slimmer. Luckily, I already knew that I like the Jetta wagon. My wife has been driving the gas version for a bit over a year now and going with diesel means much better fuel efficiency.

A medium amount of gear loaded into the Golf, leaving barely enough space for a photographer and an assistant

A medium amount of gear loaded into the Golf, leaving barely enough space for a photographer and an assistant

With the TDI wagon, I am seeing much better fuel consumption. On the highway I have no problem getting 42 mpg. And most important, my average for normal driving around is 36 mpg and when I have to crawl through traffic the worst I’ve seen is 28 mpg.

Just like with my previous car, I am hoping for 5 years of good, uneventful service from the TDI wagon.

A Beautiful Place for Worship

Trinity's grand sanctuary can seat 1,250 worshipers.

Trinity’s grand sanctuary can seat 1,250 worshipers.

I first came to Trinity Lutheran Church last year, while on assignment for the ELCA¬†and I fell in love with the congregation’s beautiful, 178-year-old historic building. I asked for permission to return and photograph the building and a couple of weeks ago I was able to do just that.

Trinity's 181-foot steeple was erected in 1957.

Trinity’s 181-foot steeple was erected in 1957.

Like a lot of churches recently, the congregation’s numbers have shrunk and most Sundays the grand sanctuary is empty while the congregation has service in a smaller chapel on the ground level.

Sunday service is held in Trinity's smaller chapel.

Sunday service is held in Trinity’s smaller chapel.

It would be a cliche to point out that buildings aren’t made like they used to; but, they really aren’t. The stairwell leading up to the choir balcony wouldn’t ever have been used by more than a small percentage of the congregation. Still, the trim work around the window, door, and baseboard were given the same attention as in the rest of the building.

Beauty waits to be discovered at every corner.

Beauty waits to be discovered at every corner.

I really enjoyed the time I spent at Trinity, both the Sunday I was happy to share service with the congregation and the morning I spent in silent reflection photographing the building. I felt that both the people and the spaces welcomed me graciously. I hope that the building can be preserved for many more generations.

The ceiling's massive rosette is in perfect balance with the size of the grand sanctuary.

The ceiling’s massive rosette is in perfect balance with the size of the grand sanctuary.

You can find more images from Trinity on my website.

Eating Well Locally

Kristin and Scott, owners of Breezy's Cafe

Kristin and Scott, the owners of Breezy’s Cafe.

The best business ideas are born from realizing that there is something you yourself want and there is no one out there providing it yet. My friends, Kristin Wolak and Scott Harnish, were frustrated with the food choices in their neighborhood and decided to do something about it.

Kristin and Scott were also looking to make a career change, so it made sense to bring the kind of food they wanted to eat to Point Breeze, Philadelphia. And it seems to be a hit with their neighbors, the cafe has already moved to a much larger and better location a few blocks from its original spot!

Fred Muser, cook at Breezy's Cafe

Fred Muser is Breezy’s cook.

Breezy’s Cafe¬†serves up local and all natural ingredients in responsible, biodegradable packaging, all in a colorful and quirky setting — my personally favorite touch are the board game table tops.

Breezy’s Cafe is located at 1200 Point Breeze Ave in Philadelphia.
Check them out on their website, and on Facebook.

Making it Through the Winter

Washington's guard, Valley Forge Park

Washington’s guard, Valley Forge Park

It’s been hard to get through this winter. It feels like no sooner do we get ourselves dug out from one storm the next one comes in directly behind it.

George Washington surveying the wintery scene at Valley Forge Park

George Washington surveying the wintery scene at Valley Forge Park

To get my mind off of all the plans that this week’s weather is ruining, I decided to drive out to Valley Forge Park yesterday and have a short walk.

Washington's Headquarters, Valley Forge Park

Washington’s Headquarters, Valley Forge Park

All in all, there have been worst winters — It was nice to get some perspective.